COMPILED BY KYLE KHANDIKIAN
YEREVAN (Combined Sources)—The seventh annual Golden Apricot International Film Festival kicked off this weekend, marking the beginning of a week-long celebration of cross-cultural exchange, world heritage and art, and the human experience, all through film. Founded in 2004, the film festival bears the theme of Crossroads of Cultures and Civilizations, a testament to Armenia’s geopolitical role throughout history, and will take place in Yerevan from July 11-18.
This year’s festival is dedicated to two prominent film makers of Armenian descent, Atom Egoyan and Henri Verneuil. The Festival’s opening began with a special tribute to renowned Diasporan film director Henri Verneuil, with a special screening of his film, “Mayrik” (Mother) on Sunday, July 11, in Yerevan. One of the 1991 film’s stars, Italian actress Claudia Cardinale, said Verneuil was a gentle and warm person. Verneuil was given the Sergei Parajanov’s Thaler Award posthumously.
“I am happy to be in Armenia,” said Cardinale, who received a commemorative medal from the Ministry of Culture. “I was lucky to play the role of his mother in this film and get acquainted with Armenian history.”
President of the Festival and renowned Canadian-Armenian director Atom Egoyan said, “Golden Apricot is not only a cultural but a political event, as it helps reflect upon various international issues.”
“The Festival gains popularity year by year. It’s a unique brand of Armenia.”
Egoyan’s wife and actress Arsine Khanjian said, “Every year we wait for July, wait for the Golden Apricot festival. Participation in this festival is always a pleasure.”
A slew of several other anniversary celebrations will also be held in honor of film director Henrik Malyan’s 85th birthday anniversary, the 80th birthday anniversary of actors Mher Mkrtchyan and Khoren Abrahamyan, cameraman Albert Yavuryan’s 75th birthday anniversary and Armen Jigarkhanyan’s 75th anniversary. Short documentaries about the lives of these Armenian film luminaries will be prepared and shown at the festival.
It has become tradition at the Festival as well to mark its beginning with a blessing of apricots. Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan, Minister of Culture Hasmik Poghosyan and Yerevan Mayor Gagik Beglaryan were present at the opening ceremonies in front of the Moscow Cinenam where they revealed the stars of Sergei Parajanov, Henri Verneuil, Ruben Mamulyan and Hamo Beknazaryan in Charles Aznavour Square.
But before the Festival actually began, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia hosted a reception for those attending the Film Festival. Participants, guests, ambassadors and representatives of international organizations were present at the reception.
Among the guests were renowned representatives of world cinematography Alen Terzyan, Atom Egoyan and Claudia Cardinale.
“The Golden Apricot expands its traditions and geography by gathering more and more artists from different countries of the world, who speak different languages, but communicate in one language – the language of cinema, which contains a great uniting power,” Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian said in his opening remarks.
500 films were submitted this year from 75 countries, including entries from Jordan, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Costa Rica for the first time.
This year’s festival is being sponsored by the Armenian Ministry of Culture and VivaCell MTS and will feature one hundred twenty movies which will be played at various locations across Yerevan, including the Moscow Cinema and Nairi Movie House. Forty four films will be competing for the Golden and Silver Apricot Awards in three categories: features, documentaries, and a special pan-Armenian competitive category, “Armenian Panorama,” a collection of feature, documentary, and animation films produced by filmmakers of Armenian descent. Seventeen of the forty four films are from Armenian filmmakers.
This year’s festival is hosting a number of Turkish directors and film makers. For the second year in a row, the festival’s Armenia-Turkey Cinema Platform is working to foster cultural dialogue and mutual understanding between Armenian and Turkish artists. A workshop, called “Making Films Together!” held on April 8 – 10 in Yerevan, was fully devoted to the co-production of Armenian-Turkish short films.
Established in 2008 by the Anadolu Kultur Association (Turkey) and the Golden Apricot Yerevan International Film Festival, the Armenia-Turkey Platform serves to develop close cooperation and links between Armenia and Turkey in the field of culture, promote dialogue between the countries, maintain an exchange of cultural heritage, organize workshops, and promote a new geopolitical image of the countries in the region.
The European Cultural Partnership is a patron of “Directors across Borders,” a project of the Golden Apricot Film Festival, which has partnered with the Council of Europe in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture of Armenia.
Atom Egoyan said in a statement, “The spirit and tradition of cinema is deeply embedded in the Armenian soul, as this has always been a true crossroad of many different cultures. More than any other art form of the past century, cinema has been able to express the nuances of the human condition, and we are proud to welcome you to this Festival.”
Those wishing to participate in the festival can enjoy jazz performances every night in Aznavour Square as well as open-air film screenings at Lovers’ Park in Yerevan.